This place, along with Blue Bottle, has been a kind of “coffee unicorn” of sorts for my friends in the coffee business. These places have always been talked about like things of legend, things to be revered, and places I must go before the end of my coffee career.
So, I finally took the trek down to Venice. I heard this Intelligentsia was unique in its set up and service. It was a little off the beaten path, but a fun ride none the less. Honestly, it was a great experience from start to finish.
First, the coffee itself. I of course ordered a cap. The milk was a good temp (I dunno why people seem to insist on steaming below 135), the texture was amazing, the art was solid, and the espresso brought everything together well. It was slightly too bitter for me (I really like single origin), but my friend said she loved its chocolatey quality. I was generally very impressed with it overall and was, to some degree, “blown away.” It was not leaps and bounds ahead of anything up in SF or even Santa Cruz , but it was steps ahead. The coffee my friend had was great, but I think that artisan coffee reaches this point where everything is delicious and amazing, it really depends on personal taste rather then any tangible qualities.
Second, the general lay out of the store. It was beautifully decorated and set up in a very spacious manner. It felt very warehouse like, similar to what Sight Glass seems to be shooting for, but surprisingly comfortable. I also loved the round sort of barista island and the individual stations. They use Synesso Hydras (my store just got the latest model, unbelievable machines), and really go to great lengths to make these stations fully accessible with individual machines, brew bars, and grinders. They even opened up each machine and put plexi-glass on the front so you can see the inner-workings. What is most notable about the layout is how you get a personal experience at each station; customers are led with their party to one station with one barista who engages with you and makes exactly what you request.
Finally, the customer service is really unique. I have been to many third wave shops and there generally is this “it is an honor to be here” attitude of the baristas. They seem to write off customers who are “snobs” or other baristas, which always surprised and slightly offended me. Customer service is a huge part of the restaurant experience for me, and it is even more true for coffee. People seem to overlook this aspect more often then not; a good barista is not only a skilled worker but an excellent and hospitable server who should be helping you enjoy your experience rather then belittle you for not being “third wave” enough. I was more then pleasantly surprised with our server. She was not only friendly and positive, but she was more than willing to talk tech, beans, espresso, and technique with me. She asked me all about my shop, the equipment I used, and seemed genuinely interested in my input. Very hospitable, very willing to offer my friend and I a variety of options, and really put a smile on my face; this was an expert who loved what she did and wanted me to be part of her love of coffee while at the same time respecting my opinions and encouraging my input. It was an exchange and she truly demonstrated an unsurpassed level of skill.
I cannot recommend this place enough to coffee lovers, snobs, or noobs. It excels in all of the aforementioned categories. I walked in with high expectations and left with those expectations met and exceeded. Keep up the amazing work guys.
- Everything… no really everything. They really covered all the bases
- Their superior customer service and attention to individuals
- Attention to details, with little things like plexiglass on the Hydras
Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea
1331 Abbot Kinney Blvd
Venice, CA 90291
Mon-Wed, Sun 6 am – 8 pm
Thu-Sat 6 am – 11 pm